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Ron Erhardt; coach guided offenses for Giants, Patriots

Stan Grossfeld/globe staff/file 1981

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Ron Erhardt, the offensive architect of the New York Giants’ two Super Bowl titles under Bill Parcells, has died. He was 80.

The Giants announced that the onetime head coach of the New England Patriots and the longtime NFL offensive coordinator died Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla.

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“Ron was a wonderful man and a great coach,’’ Giants chief executive John Mara said. “He was a big part of our success in the 1980s and was an important contributor to our first two Super Bowl championships.’’

Mr. Erhardt was hired by Ray Perkins as the Giants offensive coordinator in 1982, about a month after being released by the Patriots. When Perkins left later that season for the University of Alabama, Parcells was named the coach and kept Mr. Erhardt, who he had worked with in New England in 1980.

During his eight seasons as offensive coordinator, the Giants reached the playoffs five times, winning three NFC East titles and two Super Bowls. Phil Simms was quarterback for the first one over Denver after the 1986 season, and Jeff Hostetler ran the team en route to the second title after Simms broke his left foot late in the 1990 season.

“I learned an awful lot from him,’’ Hostetler said. “He went on and did some amazing things offensively. What amazes me, is that system is still out there, still being used, and works as successfully as ever. It is - without a doubt, out of all the systems I’ve been involved with and that’s probably five, six, or seven different systems - the most simple as far as verbiage and most consistent.’’

Current Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who was the team’s receivers coach from 1988-90, said he recently sent Mr. Erhardt a note for his Feb. 27 birthday.

“He was a great guy to work with,’’ Coughlin said. “He was a lot of fun. He kept things pretty loose. He was good on the field. We had some good football players here, so we were pretty successful. But I think the working relationship is the thing I remember the most.’’

Under Mr. Erhardt, the Giants consistently had one of the most productive NFL rushing attacks. Joe Morris rushed for more than 1,000 yards three times, including 1,516 in the Giants’ first Super Bowl season. The Giants also finished in the Top 10 in the league in passing in 1984, ’85, and ’87.

Mr. Erhardt left the Giants after his play-calling duties were taken away by Ray Handley, who replaced Parcells in 1991. Mr. Erhardt joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as their offensive coordinator in 1992 and spent four years with them, helping them reach the Super Bowl after the 1995 season. He spent one season as the Jets offensive coordinator in 1996.

Mr. Erhardt began his NFL career as the Patriots backfield coach in 1973, a position he held for four seasons before being named offensive coordinator. When head coach Chuck Fairbanks was suspended by owner Billy Sullivan in 1978 for making a deal to coach the University of Colorado, Mr. Erhardt was named co-head coach, along with Hank Bullough, for the last game of the regular season.

Mr. Erhardt’s record was 21-27 in his three seasons at the helm of the Patriots. His team set a club record for scoring in 1980 with 441 points, a mark that was not broken until 2007.

Parcells was the Patriots linebackers coach in 1980 and retained Mr. Erhardt on his staff when he became coach of the Giants. Mr. Erhardt was on the Giants’ staff from 1982 to 1991, spending eight seasons under Parcells, and was the Giants’ offensive coordinator when they won Super Bowls XXI and XXV.

A native of Mandan, N.D., Mr. Erhardt was 67-7-1 and won two college division national championships at North Dakota State.

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